Workforce Response to COVID-19 Disaster

As we are all aware, COVID-19 has taken center stage for the past several months and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In addition, it will certainly impact the way we work, learn, and live going forward. Many individuals continue to work remotely, other workers have no job at all, many businesses have failed or been unable to re-open, and schools are desperately trying to plan for what learning will look like in the fall. It is certainly clear that the US was unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude.

The Central MS Planning & Development District (CMPDD) serves as the administrative entity for the Southcentral MS Works (SMW) Workforce Development Area, which encompasses seventeen counties in the southwest and south-central portion of the state. The workforce area receives federal funding from the US Department of Labor each year, which is used to provide job seekers and employers with assistance to acquire needed workforce training and help with training newly hired employees.

Since the publication of the last Central Update, several new funding sources have been made available to the workforce area to assist with re-starting our economy and getting citizens back to work. The State of Mississippi submitted an application to the US Department of Labor for a National Emergency Grant and the grant was awarded in the amount of $3 million. The workforce area received one quarter of that amount and those funds are being used to pay wages for temporary workers who are performing tasks related to COVID, such as cleaning, disinfecting, temperature taking, trash removal, and humanitarian efforts in public facilities, buildings and parks. Workers can work up to 320 hours each and will be paid $12.00 per hour by a staffing agency that SMW has contracted for that purpose. These temporary workers are required to participate in an online safety training, which is provided at no cost.

In addition, the State Legislature has approved $55 million in CARES Act funding to be devoted to workforce development. Approximately $49 million of that amount is to be used to increase training capacity at the fifteen community colleges statewide. Many community colleges are unable to train more individuals due to restrictions of space and instructors, and these dollars will allow them the opportunity for expansion. Of the $55 million, slightly less than $5 million will be used for On-the-Job Training (OJT). OJT benefits not only individuals who may have lost their jobs due to COVID, but also helps employers offset the cost of training new hires. New restrictions being put into place as a result of COVID mean more training for all employees to learn how to prevent the spread of this disease and to stay safe on the job. OJT allows reimbursement to employers for a percentage of the salary they pay newly hired workers during a prescribed training period.

If you need workforce assistance, your local workforce development area is ready to help. Please contact Mary Powers at mpowers@cmpdd.org or 601.981.1511.

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